Conservative management, including medication, activity modification and physical therapy, can prevent or delay the need for joint replacement. Surgery may be an option if the patient is in severe pain, has lost cartilage, has not benefited from other treatments, and is in overall good health. The goal of join replacement surgery is to reduce pain and improve joint movement.
There are three primary joint replacement procedures: Hip, knee, and shoulder.
Hip Replacement - Total joint replacement involves surgery to replace the ends of both bones in a damaged joint to create new joint surfaces. Total hip replacement surgery replaces the upper end of the thighbone (femur) with a metal ball and resurfaces the hip socket in the pelvic bone with a metal shell and plastic liner. Hip replacement surgery replaces damaged cartilage with new joint material. Hip resurfacing is an alternative to hip replacement. A metal cap is placed on the femoral head.
Knee Replacement - The ends of the damaged thigh and lower leg (shin) bones and usually the kneecap are capped with artificial surfaces lined with metal and plastic. Usually, doctors replace the entire surface at the ends of the thigh and lower leg bones. But it is increasingly popular to replace just the inner knee surfaces or the outer knee surfaces, depending on the location of damage. This is called partial replacement, or unicompartmental replacement. Doctors usually secure knee joint components to the bones with cement.
Shoulder Replacement - Doctors replace the ends of the damaged upper arm bone (humerus) and usually the shoulder bone (scapula) or cap them with artificial surfaces lined with plastic or metal and plastic. As with knee and hip replacement, shoulder joint components may be held in place with cement. Or they may be made with material that allows new bone to grow into the joint component over time to hold it in place without cement. The top end of the upper arm bone is shaped like a ball. Muscles and ligaments hold this ball against a cup-shaped part of the shoulder bone. Surgeons usually replace the top of the upper arm bone with a long metal piece, inserted into your upper arm bone, which has a rounded head. If the cup-shaped surface of your shoulder bone that cradles your upper arm bone is also damaged, doctors smooth it and then cap it with a plastic or metal and plastic piece.